könnte man höchstens darüber staunen

Discussion in 'Deutsch (German)' started by Löwenfrau, Jan 5, 2014.

  1. Löwenfrau

    Löwenfrau Senior Member

    São Paulo
    Brazilian Portuguese
    Hello!
    My question here concerns the emphasis of the passage in blue:

    "Bei allen diesen Zusammenhängen könnte man höchstens darüber staunen, daß die Menschen nicht früher schon den kindlichen Unverstand einsahen, der sie die eigenen Götzen oder Bilder knechtisch verehren, die fremden Götzen oder Bilder mit äußerstem Hochmut verachten ließ." Mauthner

    I think that 'höchstens' is bound to 'darüber' (so, to the whole next sentence after 'daß'):
    Bei allen diesen Zusammenhängen könnte man höchstens darüber staunen, daß...

    One could wonder at most the fact that men haven't noticed before their own infantile unreason by which they...

    (But this doesn't sound idiomatic, so):

    At most, one/we could [only] wonder that men haven't...

    Am I going in the right direction?
     
  2. lingpil

    lingpil Senior Member

    Lisboa
    German & Russian
    Yes, absolutely. It's so astonishing that we can't do anything but wonder.
     
  3. perpend

    perpend Senior Member

    American English
    Mere food for thought ... I want to say this:

    With all of these XXX, the most surprising/shocking thing ...

    EDIT: Cross-posted. I don't think that "at most" conveys the German. Just my opinion.
     
  4. bearded man

    bearded man Senior Member

    Milan
    Italian
    Hello
    My opinion is that, in the given context, 'höchstens' does not have the usual meaning (allenfalls), but rather means 'in höchstem Grade'. I would therefore say
    ''Under all these circumstances one could be extremely surprised that people...''. I hope that native German speakers will confirm my interpretation.
    EDIT Crossed with perpend, I am glad that we agree.
     
  5. Schimmelreiter

    Schimmelreiter Senior Member

    Deutsch
    My translation would read like this:

    Given how all of this is interrelated, one might only wonder, at best, why people shouldn't have realised
    any earlier that it was out of an infantile lack of judgement that they worshipped their own idols and images subserviently while despising others' idols and images with utter arrogance.


    ​Cross-posted with all the others.
     
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2014
  6. Löwenfrau

    Löwenfrau Senior Member

    São Paulo
    Brazilian Portuguese
    I too had the feeling that 'höchsten' doesn't have here the usual meaning, that's why I tried '...we could only wonder' - which lingpil gives the more fiting 'we can't do anything but' [wonder].
    I think that here "to be extremely surprised" gives the same emphasis of "we can't do anything but wonder".
     
  7. Schimmelreiter

    Schimmelreiter Senior Member

    Deutsch
    I beg to differ.


    As the following is impossible

    *Wir können hoch staunen.

    I don't think that either

    *Wir können höher staunen.

    or

    *Wir können höchstens staunen.

    is possible in the suggested sense.
     
  8. bearded man

    bearded man Senior Member

    Milan
    Italian
    Hello SR
    Would it have been impossible also in Mauthner's time and style?
    While I see that in the end our translations are substantially not so different, it is your 'at best' that disturbs me a little, because to me it appears as not consistent with the meaning of the whole sentence. If one can only be (or one cannot help being) surprised, how does 'at best' fit into this line of thought?
     
  9. perpend

    perpend Senior Member

    American English
    I think you've summed it up well yourself.

    EDIT: Cross-posted. I share bearded's reservations regarding "at best".
     
  10. Schimmelreiter

    Schimmelreiter Senior Member

    Deutsch
    Mauthner can't give an explanation, all he does is wonder. I don't think his style is that remote from ours.


    Mutter zu Sohn:
    Ich kann mich über dein Verhalten bestenfalls wundern. Oder soll ich annehmen, dass du aus bösem Willen gehandelt hast?
     
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2014
  11. bearded man

    bearded man Senior Member

    Milan
    Italian
    If the word has the same meaning as it has nowadays, then there is a little, repeat little, logical contradiction in the text. My attempt was to eliminate it by considering a different - possibly outdated - meaning of that adverb. I probably failed in my attempt:(
     
  12. Löwenfrau

    Löwenfrau Senior Member

    São Paulo
    Brazilian Portuguese
    Perpend and BM share the feeling that 'at best' doesn't fit here. I have the same feeling. I too see a little logical contradiction in the text. But I wouldn't say that this is due to an outdated different meaning of the adverb. I would rather think that Mauthner, in his always long periods, full of circumvolutions, made an unsuspected confusion.
    I don't want to make any easy conclusion, but the doubt still remains.
     
  13. Schimmelreiter

    Schimmelreiter Senior Member

    Deutsch
    I believe lingpil's translation shows there's no contradiction:
    We can wonder at best. That's the only thing we can do. We/I can't give an explanation.



    Another reading would be:

    If there's anything that warrants amazement, it's the fact that people didn't realise earlier that it was out of an infantile lack of judgement that they worshipped their own idols and images subserviently while despising others' idols and images with utter arrogance.
     
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2014
  14. Löwenfrau

    Löwenfrau Senior Member

    São Paulo
    Brazilian Portuguese
    SR, now I see your point, and this last version of yours is very good, I think. Thanks for explanation.
     
  15. bearded man

    bearded man Senior Member

    Milan
    Italian
    Dear SR, now I can see your point, too, but I feel that your interpretation requires AT BEST a certain effort. I would like to explain more clearly why I spoke of a contradiction: if you replaced ''höchstens'' by ''zumindest'' wouldn't the sentence sound much more coherent ?
     
  16. Schimmelreiter

    Schimmelreiter Senior Member

    Deutsch
    Who am I to suggest an author's choice of word be replaced with its very opposite? ;)

    Mauthner, as I dare read him: The maximum we can do is wonder. At most/best, we can wonder. If anything, we can wonder.
    Yours: At least, we can wonder.

    I do think I can see your point, though. Well in the middle of rewriting, why not also substitute müssen for können:
    At least, we must wonder. Would be perfectly logical. We can't ask Mauthner how he likes it, though. ;)
     
  17. perpend

    perpend Senior Member

    American English
    I think part of the difficulty is "wonder". I would avoid it altogether. I would use "amazed" (SR) or "shocked/surprised" (as I suggested), for "staunen".

    "bewilder(ed)" might work, but "wonder" isn't the greatest translation for "staunen" in this case. It's relatively weak.
     
  18. Löwenfrau

    Löwenfrau Senior Member

    São Paulo
    Brazilian Portuguese
    Actually, he does give an explanation... See the following statements of the paragraph:

    "Bei allen diesen Zusammenhängen könnte man höchstens darüber staunen, daß die Menschen nicht früher schon den kindlichen Unverstand einsahen, der sie die eigenen Götzen oder Bilder knechtisch verehren, die fremden Götzen oder Bilder mit äußerstem Hochmut verachten ließ. Warum sollten die heidnischen Sachsen den bildlich sichtbaren Gott der Franken und Alemannen nicht einen Götzen geheißen haben, da doch christliche Kirchenväter es wagten, die menschlich schönen Kultbilder der Griechen Götzen zu nennen? Hier wie dort auf der einen Seite Glaube, auf der andern Seite Unglaube. Für den Gläubigen ist der Fetisch Bild und Sitz des wunderwirkenden Gottes; für den Ungläubigen ist das Gottesbild eine abominatio, ein Fetisch."

    That's the explanation: a people consider the faith of another people as unfaith, in this case particularly as a fetish.

    Anyway, I don't think this should change our interpretations here.
     
  19. manfy Senior Member

    Singapore
    German - Austria
    Interesting discussion! My first instinctive translation of 'höchstens' within this context was also 'at best'.

    BM, I think it's impossible to interpret 'höchstens' as 'in höchstem Grade' (irrespective of context!), because we have a separate word for that: höchst or zuhöchst (or, more common than höchst, is 'aufs höchste')
    e.g. 'Ich bin höchst überrascht' = 'Ich bin aufs höchste überrascht' -> same meaning but the latter version is more expressive.

    'Ich bin höchstens überrascht' = 'Ich bin bestenfalls überrascht' -> and this is very different from the meaning above.
    In Löwenfrau's sentence, 'höchstens' can be replaced with 'bestenfalls' too without actual change in meaning.
     
  20. Löwenfrau

    Löwenfrau Senior Member

    São Paulo
    Brazilian Portuguese
    I'm getting confused because I'd really expect another statement from Mauthner. But let me see if I got that straight; is that Umformulierung correct?

    "Bei allen diesen Zusammenhängen könnte man bestenfalls nur darüber staunen, daß die Menschen..."
    ?
    And in the English version there would be nothing to change in Schimmelreiter's version:
    Given how all of this is interrelated, one might only wonder, at best, why people
    Except, perhaps (and at best ;)) the word order:

    Given how all of this is interrelated, one might at best only wonder why people...

     
  21. manfy Senior Member

    Singapore
    German - Austria
    No, why? I see it as a very consistent, subtle and yet highly criticizing Mauthner style.
    This word 'höchstens' or 'bestenfalls' always implies a (usually unspoken/unwritten) opposite; i.e. if there exists a best case then there MUST be a normal case or maybe also a worst case.

    And with Mauthner, I guess it's something like this:
    "Bei allen diesen Zusammenhängen könnte man bestenfalls nur darüber staunen, daß [...]" and then the unwritten thoughts of Mauthner ", obwohl man normalerweise schlussfolgern müsste, dass die Menschen des Mittelalters größtenteils einfach dumm waren - oder zumindest durch blinde Gläubigkeit und Kirchenhörigkeit verdummt worden waren."

    Yes, Schimmelreiter's translation conveys the meaning of the German sentence very well.
    Of course, it's always possible to use different vocabulary or different word order to emphasize one thing over the other, and still convey the same overall meaning. But that's just individual style - and that is something that needs to be finetuned by you in your final translation and in combination with all related sentences in that paragraph. In my experience, it makes little sense to optimize the phrasing of a single sentence in isolation because it might not convey the implied meaning of the whole paragraph. And Mauthner does write a lot in between the lines!
     
  22. Löwenfrau

    Löwenfrau Senior Member

    São Paulo
    Brazilian Portuguese
    Now it is more than clear!

    Thanks for convincing me, manfy! :)
     

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